The first time I heard the term, GIGO, was in my machine language class—no, we weren’t using abaci or slide rules (we’d given those up the year before).
It’s an acronym that stands for “garbage in, garbage out” and it’s meant to convey the simple idea, that no matter how good your algorithm, if the data you enter is garbage, your output is also going to be garbage. For someone that works with data, GIGO becomes part of everyday life. It’s one of those axioms that you should never forget, but one that, unfortunately, many do.
Sometimes human beings get caught up in all that they think they can do and forget to stop and ask if it should be done at all—some would call this hubris. Scientists are just as vulnerable to hubris, and greed, as anyone else. There is nothing remotely Vulcan about them, despite portrayals to the contrary. We all have ego. We also all have mortgages and the desire to live well. We all have a desire to be relevant, to have our words and ideas given the respect we think they deserve. We are all, in essence, human beings first. And as such, we are prone to human frailties and while we may tell ourselves that we serve the better angels of our nature, we rarely do just that. There’s always a little bit more to it—like Pygmalion, we fall in love with our creation, be it a sculpture, a theory, or a computer model.
I have seen science corrupted by a strident belief as strong as any religious fervor, a type of mania that says that anyone who disagrees with the “official” interpretation of the future must be destroyed. Reputations must be ruined, jail and prison time served, voices silenced. There’s even a label for these terrible, terrible people—deniers.
The end of the world is big business. Fear is big business. But neither of these even begin to rival the grandeur that is power and control over people’s lives. Control of what they can eat, what they can drink, what they can see, hear, and think. No matter what the problem—whether real or imagined—the solution is always the same: Give us power over you and we will make it all better.
“After all, our ideas are so good that they must be made mandatory,” they tell us.
From global cooling, to global warming, to climate change (all catastrophic of course, all man-made don’t-you-know) the solution is always the same. More power to the government and the global elites that know better, all for the price of your freedom and prosperity. The song –acid rain, holes in the ozone layer, global cooling, global warming, climate change, shifting weather patterns–morphs as reality intrudes and proves the faithful wrong, but, not unlike the snake-oil salesman who has the same magical cure for all, the solution is always the same. Unlike the snake-oil salesmen, however, the oracles of freedom- and prosperity-destroying ideas, global power grabs, and bad science, don’t get run out of town. They don’t get tarred and feathered. They get tenure and fame and success. They get political backing. They become essential tools (yes, that’s a double entendre) wielded by the powerful.
It is with these thoughts churning in my head, that I wrote a short story called “Dolus Magnus: The Great Hoax” for Superversive Press’s upcoming anthology, MAGA: 2020 & Beyond. It is the story of a young scientist’s crisis of faith, about the price and cost of speaking out against consensus, about…
“Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum—garbage in, garbage out.”
MAGA: 2020 & Beyond will be released on Nov. 8th, 2017, exactly one year after Donald Trump’s election. It is available now for pre-order HERE.